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Category 'Japan'

Ping Pong (JAPAN 2002)

Director : Fumihiko Sori
Cast : Yosuke Kubozuka, Arata, Sam Lee, Naoto Takenaka, Shido Nakamura, Koji Ogura

Synopsis
Two friends, Peco and Smile are the best two table-tennis players in their school. Peco is fullof teenage attitude and often misses practise but plays games for money, while Smile (so called because he always looks miserable) practices but only actually plays to kill time. The two friends enter a tournament and Peco loses miserably and takes it badly, while Smile is convinced by his coach Ota to start playing seriously. As they enter local tournaments the two friends and some of the players around them find that they are maturing in their outlook on the sport – and their lives.

Review
by Martin Cleary

Based on a manga by Taiyo Matsumoto, Ping Pong takes what seems to be an unlikely sport (for the cinema) and turns it into a decent sports-comedy-drama. The two friends Peco and Smile (played by Yosuke Kubozuka and Arata) provide the central plot. This initially seems to be a strange friendship as Smile is a bit of a miserable sod while Peco is a loud show-off. We soon learn that the two became friends as children when Peco saved Smile from being beaten up. The differences in the friends personalities reflects in their approaches to their sport – Peco plays for fun but also to win, while Smile plays to kill time and will not try to win if it hurts his opponents feelings.

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Vital (JAPAN 2004)

Director & Writer : Shinya Tsukamoto
Cast : Tadanobu Asano, Nami Tsukamoto, Kiki, Kazuyoshi Kushida, Lily and Hana Kino.

Review
by Edward Tang

From the man who brought us the classic mindfuck Tetsuo comes another flick that shows his greatness in every scene. There are very few directors out there who establish themselves to a point where as if you were to see a single frame of their movies, you could tell what director was doing the job and his name is all over this one. Perhaps not everyone is familiar with the name, if not check out some of his great works like the already mentioned Tetsuo, Snake in June, Tokyo Fist or Bullet Ballet. Vital is a basic film that really doesn’t showcase notable odd and plain ol’ nasty shit that the man is usually known for but this shows how he has matured as a director, not needing the violent factor (shame) to spice up the night rather than displaying his excellent style of direction and interesting visuals.

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Versus (JAPAN 2003)

Director : Ryuhei Kitamura
Cast : Tak Sakaguchi, Hideo Sakaki, Chieko Misaka, Kenji Matsuda, Yuichiro Arai, Minoru Matsumoto, and Kazuhito Ohba

Synopsis
A pair of escaped convicts meet up with a group of gangsters by a remote forest road. After an argument over a girl the mobsters have kidnapped, shots are fired and one of the gangsters is killed. The standoff is cut short, however, when the dead man suddenly springs to life and starts trying to kill his former friends. The zombie eventually goes down in a hail bullets, but their problems aren’t over. It seems the gangsters have been using this forest to dispose of of their victims, all of whom are now looking to settle some old scores. Even if they get through this mess, there is still the question of why they’ve arranged to meet the convicts out here, and why they’ve brought along the girl. How are they connected to the dead bodies coming back to life?

Review
by Edward Tang

I give this movie a perfect score, 5/5 because what it does, it takes an unfamiliar plot and mixes it in with zombies and pure action. I’m a pushover when it comes to flicks like these, completely over the top destruction and a few comedic moments here and there. Versus is a great film because it is non-stop entertainment, backed on with a plot that looked good and delivered the goods in an easy, but interesting way. I’m a realist, films like this aren’t made every day, and when they are, you can’t help but smile and enjoy what you are seeing on the screen. Give me this any day over the dreck I continue to waste money on, every time I got the local theater. Okay, maybe not that bad, but Ben Affleck or Keanu Reeves as an action hero? Give me a break, and a kit kat bar as well. As Versus remains off key, and totally out there with some of the stuff that they dish out, I was asking for more the entire time. Seeing that Kitamura has green lighted the second installment, he better not let me down, I don’t think that my childish lust for blood and zombies can be contained for much longer! (Note: Don’t feed the animals)

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Uzumaki (JAPAN 2000)

Director : Higuchinsky
Cast : Eriko Hatsume, Fhi Fan, HInako Saeki Eun-Kyung Shin, Keiko Takahashi and Ren Osugi

Synopsis
The inhabitants of a small Japanese seaside town come under the influence of a strange force that causes an obsession with spiral forms. Kirie, a young schoolgirl, is the first to notice the strange behavior in friends and neighbors and is powerless to prevent the obsession that is overwhelming everyone around her. Eventually the townspeople begin descending on a self-inflicted and self-perpetuating spiral of terror.

Review
by Edward Tang

The word Uzumaki means spiral, which is the main point of this film. An entire town starts to become obsessed with the spiral, which eventually leads to their untimely death. What succeeds is the plot of this film, one that I haven’t ever heard of and probably won’t hear of again. But the plot stays on this one subject, and even when one of the characters finds out some knowledge about what is happening, he is later killed in a horrible car crash. Almost like making the fact that the spiral’s point is to capture and destroy with known horrible results. The direction is crisp and that’s a complete fact. Even though the film has some truly interesting subjects, even the more subtle shots of spirals that simply fall into the background, give us something extra. As we are taken through this story, everybody is killed off. It’s almost like a drain effect, you put something in it, and it will consume it eventually, no matter how long it takes.

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Tokyo Zombie (JAPAN 2005)

Director : Sakichi Sato
Cast : Tadanobu Asano and Sho Aikawa

Review
by Edward Tang

Sakichi Sato is a f*cking maniac. He is the very same man who penned the ultra-bizarre (and excellent) Takashi Miike flicks Ichi the Killer and Gozu. Speaking of such movies, an actor from each of them decided to appear in this. The first one is the charismatic Sho Aikawa who was just so damn cool to look at in the Dead or Alive movies and overall is underrated when it comes to the acting circle. Then we’ve got probably one of the most well known Japanese actors out there in Tadanobu Asano who can be great without saying a single world. What a combination!

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